HAPPY NEW YEAR! Have you started thinking about The List? You know the one I’m talking about — the official statement of all the things you need to accomplish before next January. In the past, my New Year’s resolutions were typically either grandiose or highly restrictive. But relying solely on willpower—a finite resource based on self-control and delayed gratification — didn’t always result in success. When I read that over 80 percent of people give up on their resolutions by February, I thought perhaps I was just aiming too high (and, frankly, continually missing the goal of being a billionaire by year-end had started to wear thin). So I tried to come up with a list of more achievable things, such as:

  • I will reduce blaming everything wrong in my life on Mercury retrograde by 5 percent.

  • I will never again stay up past midnight on a work night for a meme (even if it involves Drake or the Snapchat hotdog filter).
  • I will stop apologizing for the fact that Maid in Manhattan is one of my favourite films.

But these micro-goals didn’t seem to have the motivational mojo to get me through 12 whole months. (This was probably the fault of Mercury retrograde.) In How to get it right in 2018, writer Kelly Oxford works through her challenges with resolutions too. She finds that setting goals helps her feel more secure in a chaotic world. But… what happens when she doesn’t meet them?

So here’s where I am now: I’ve decided to do away with resolutions altogether and start each new year with a personal mantra — a mission statement that keeps me on track, is easy to remember and requires bravery. Instead of the strict, tight-lipped, unyielding schoolmarm of a resolutions list, I visualize my mantra as a gentle aunt who, before I start the day, gives my shoulder a reassuring squeeze and whispers in my ear “If you don’t want to do something, you can say no; it’s not your job in life to make sure other people in the world are not disappointed or uncomfortable” or “How you treat yourself sets the standard for others” or “Progress, not perfection.” Or even a simple “Today, I will not compare myself to strangers on the Internet.”

I’m going to try to think less about the things I want to do and more about the way I want to feel in 2018: I’m aiming for empowered, content and confident. I’d love to know what you’ve got in your plans.




Vanessa Craft

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This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.